One could argue that Ireland’s main export is not television shows, financial services or even Nobel laureates in literature, but rather its drinking culture: No matter where you are in the world, some quaint, cartoonish vision of Gaelic cheer looms nearby. And just as Austria is hardly a country of singing nuns and yodeling lads in Lederhosen, these nominally Irish pubs tend to bear little resemblance with reality.
But Karl Burke, formerly general manager at the famed Charlie P’s, seeks to change that with The Long Hall, recently opened where the former Hofbräu once stood near the Rathaus. Following the well-established template of the modern gastropub, it offers gourmet renditions of classic pub meals alongside premium drinks in an up-market atmosphere that still nods to convention. Indeed, The Long Hall makes a passable attempt at replicating an Edwardian interior with lots of dark green wood paneling, copper tanks, brass fixtures, natural wood tabletops and a divider made of panels of smoked glass, like a classic sash window. It’s more homage than faithful reproduction, and overall, it doesn’t quite transport you away from Josefstadt. Then again, that’s not really the point.
Instead, The Long Hall has wisely elected to adapt the Irish pub to Central Europe: Aside from the obligatory Guinness, Kilkenny and Magners cider, their draught offerings include regional favorites like Kozel (brought in weekly from Czechia), Franziskaner, Ottakringer Zwickl Rot, a smattering of Belgians and a few entries from local microbrewer Brew Age. Their wine list goes even further, featuring exclusively Austrian fare; the main concessions to the Emerald Isle are the spirits, with a long list of choice gins, a longer one for Irish whiskeys and longer one still for Scotch.
However, it’s the food menu that really stands out. The Wild Boar Scotch Egg, while a bit pricey at €8.50, approached perfection: still partially runny, the yolk went perfectly with the boar meat, and the breaded crust was neither soggy nor greasy, but crisp and satisfying – most Schnitzel chefs could learn a thing or two from it. Likewise, the fish & chips featured a light, golden batter, keeping the cod succulent; the pureed (“mushy”) peas were the only real misstep – although that may be a cultural thing, like Marmite. For the rest of us, something is lost in translation.
Best of the evening by far, however, was the Irish beef stew: as thick as any Gulasch, the meat practically melts on your tongue, and the Guinness-flavored broth gave it a malty, bitter taste that begged to be soaked up by the fluffy mashed potatoes.
That said, The Long Hall does suffer from the classic fallacy of all gastropubs: too casual for fine dining but too uptight for that “second living room” feel that all good pubs, cafés and bars have. Here, it’s neither fish nor fowl, its clean-cut interior struggling to project personality.
But what it lacks in ambiance is neatly countered by its well-considered drink selection and delectable food that includes a tempting brunch menu on weekends featuring eggs benedict and pancakes. There’s also a large Schanigarten that’s all but guaranteed to be a hit once summer rolls in. Bottom line: The Long Hall has all the makings of a good bar. Give it time for its copper vats and brass fixtures to develop some patina, and it may even become a great one.